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Andrea Riddell spoke with Philanthropy Australia’s new CEO, Jack Heath, to discuss their blueprint to grow structured giving, the future of philanthropy and more.

Jack Heath has had a diverse career, from political speech writer for Paul Keating and senior adviser to Kevin Rudd to leading mental health nonprofits ReachOut and SANE Australia. And he’s hoping to bring this wealth of experience to his latest role as CEO of Philanthropy Australia.

“It became clear to me when I was at SANE Australia that I had achieved what I set out to do. I wasn’t quite sure what I was going to do next — I’d always imagined staying in mental health,” he says. “Then I saw that the Philanthropy Australia role had been advertised and I thought, ‘Oh, I’ll give that a shot’.” 

While the move to Philanthropy Australia was a surprise, Jack’s experience readied him for the role. As CEO and founder of ReachOut and CEO of SANE Australia, Jack had been well acquainted with Philanthropy Australia on the other side of the table. His experience in government and politics has given Jack an understanding of having a national perspective and providing leadership at a national level.

“It’s a little bit like being the local member for philanthropy!” says Jack. “You’re talking to national direction and what we can do as a country. Where are the opportunities for significant growth?”

Helping Australians turn to philanthropy

For the first three months of his tenure, Jack has spent time getting to know the lay of the land, visiting all of Philanthropy Australia’s offices around the country and dodging COVID-19 outbreaks along the way.

Now, he’s focused on Philanthropy Australia’s Blueprint to Grow Structured Giving, a roadmap to double giving by 2030. Jack’s predecessor, Sarah Davies, was instrumental in the development of the blueprint across her five years leading the peak body. Now it’s Jack’s turn to oversee the rollout of this project.

It’s one that he’s happy to be part of. There has never been a better time to embark on an ambitious goal like this. 

“I’m coming in on the coattails of the phenomenal work that’s been done by people before me, most especially by Sarah Davies. I’m coming in at a really fortunate time,” says Jack.

“When you’re a national organisation, I think it’s really important that there’s a sense of where it is that we might be heading. There seems to be a real growing sense of momentum around philanthropy. We know that the proportion of people giving is declining but the number of overall dollars given is heading upwards. We’re seeing a lot of potential in terms of intergenerational wealth transfer, and we’re seeing very high-net-worth individuals globally and in Australia making significant gifts, so it feels like there’s real momentum.”

“Giving is not just the privilege of the super wealthy and I think it’s really important that we embed that culture of giving very early on.”

He also feels that Australians are ready to embark on this journey into philanthropy.

“People are looking for a sense of connection to something that’s bigger than themselves; something that’s important and going to make a real difference.”

Jack sees Philanthropy Australia’s stakeholders as falling into two groups: existing members and those Jack calls “the not-yet philanthropists”.

“I think there’s a huge number of people who have gotten the philanthropic bug, who are looking to make a contribution, but might be a bit unsure of the best way to go about it. I want to make sure Philanthropy Australia is engaging in conversations with them, so they come on the journey with us and become part of what I think has the potential to be a movement around philanthropy. We’re not there yet,” says Jack.

“We’re a very generous people. We haven’t translated that so well into giving compared to other countries. But I think that’s changing. We’re not trying to breathe life into a dead parrot. This bird’s alive and well and really wanting to spread its wings and soar.”

The road ahead 

The bushfires and COVID-19 gave us a good indication of Australia’s generosity. Corporate giving in 2020 was at an all-time high with a 17% increase from 2019 and Australians made 1.3 million donations to various causes on crowdfunding platform, GoFundMe — up 30% from 2019. Jack’s right in saying that Australians are willing to dig deep when the going gets tough, but only over half of those earning $1 million and over each year are making tax deductible donations, compared to 90% in the US. 

So what’s holding us back from seeing the same proportions of giving as we’re seeing overseas? Is it a publicity issue? A lack of understanding or awareness of ways to give? Or government red tape restricting charities and reducing incentives to give?  Philanthropy Australia’s blueprint has initiatives to address all these points.

When pondering on the reasons why the proportion of giving has declined in Australia, Jack draws back on his experience in mental health.

“Over the last 10 to 20 years we’ve seen rising levels of anxiety, we’ve seen a breakdown of trust in governments and large institutions. We also haven’t seen real wage growth. It’s an increasingly uncertain world that COVID-19 has reinforced in spades,” says Jack.

“When we’re feeling anxious and worried about a sense of certainty, we tend to focus on ourselves rather than others. Philanthropy is about trying to engender a sense of movement out from ourselves to others — a fundamental shift towards others and towards community.” 

As much as COVID-19 has heightened our levels of anxiety, it has also helped us slow down and be more present in our local communities.

“I think we’ve got much more of a sense of the value and support that exists within our respective local communities and
I think that’s already started to translate into big shifts around place-based philanthropy,” says Jack.

“There are significant opportunities for emerging community foundations to turbo-charge that growth. Because people understand more the importance of being able to deliver services around their local area.”

Part of the blueprint includes highlighting the opportunities of place-based philanthropy and helping reduce some of the red tape and limitations around the charitable status of community foundations.

Another focus for Philanthropy Australia will be schools. “There are some important initiatives around philanthropy in schools that could be scaled up over the coming years. We want to try and build in at an early age these practices around philanthropy, so they become the norm,” says Jack. “Giving is not just the privilege of the super wealthy and I think it’s really important that we embed that culture of giving very early on.”

Understanding younger people and their relationship to philanthropy will also become critical as we see a potential transfer of intergenerational wealth worth $2.6 trillion over the coming years. Philanthropy Australia is keen to harness this potential and engage with younger generations to build awareness of the power of philanthropy.

“This is going to require us to broaden what we consider to be philanthropy. Unless we engage with that cohort, we’re going to run the risk that we don’t bring them on board for the longer philanthropic journey. It’s not a question about their intent or wish to contribute. I think there’s a desire [to give] that’s probably stronger than when I was that age,” says Jack.

Another part of the puzzle is encouraging Philanthropy Australia members and other philanthropists in the community to come forward and share their stories. Jack believes that a “deep-seated sense of humility” has made people hesitant to tell their stories of philanthropy in fear of “big-noting themselves”. But the peak body is keen for those peer-to-peer conversations to grow. “The time is coming for people to be able to communicate the sense of joy that comes from giving.” 

In the early months in the role, as he travelled around, Jack spoke to philanthropists and people involved in giving and was struck by the feeling of joy created by giving. He’s keen to magnify this feeling as a way to encourage other people to give. 

Alongside their blueprint, towards the end of the year Philanthropy Australia will also be revising and developing their strategy for 2022 to 2024. They’ll be undertaking deep and comprehensive conversations with their members to find out what’s important to them, and what giving post-COVID-19 looks like. They will also be conducting a member survey in August this year, which will also shed light on whether the sector’s grantmaking adaptations in response to COVID-19 are still in place.

It really sounds like Jack has had to hit the ground running, and for charities and nonprofits reliant on philanthropic funding, I bet they couldn’t be more grateful. 


Philanthropy Australia’s blueprint to grow structured giving

Philanthropy Australia has released their blueprint to achieve their big, hairy, audacious goal: to double structured giving by 2030. The blueprint outlines how the philanthropic, nonprofit, business and government sectors can work together to build a culture of giving across the country. If achieved, we’ll see Australia’s structured giving reach $5 billion in 2030.

Currently, structured giving, which includes private or public ancillary funds (PAFs and PuAFs), sub-funds, giving circles, testamentary or other legacy trusts as well as corporate cash donations, accounts for 20% of total annual giving.

Supported by philanthropy heavyweights Perpetual and the Paul Ramsay Foundation, and developed in collaboration with Social Ventures Australia, the blueprint involved extensive cross-sector consultation and evidence-based research.

The Blueprint outlines three key strategic priorities: protecting the foundations of philanthropy that work well today; enhancing the building blocks of giving in Australia; and targeting specific opportunities with high potential to grow giving. This is stage one of a four-stage process to be rolled out over the decade.

Why now? 

Australia’s generosity was on display last year as we saw many people dig deep during the bushfires and COVID-19. Corporate Australia donated $1.1 billion last year — an increase of 17% in giving from 2019. We are also expecting to see an unprecedented transfer of intergenerational wealth of $2.6 trillion to be passed down from baby boomers to their children over the next two decades (thanks, mum and dad!). So, the potential for giving is huge.

However, the proportion of Australians who give has been declining over the last 15 years — a trend that if rectified, Philanthropy Australia suggests, could amount to as much as $16 billion in ‘lost’ donations by 2030. And while the number of wealthy Australians is increasing, the proportion of wealthy Australians who donate is decreasing. 

With the ever-increasing need in our communities and the yo-yoing public perception of charities and market saturation, there has never been a better time to embark on a project like this.

Where do we start? 

Philanthropy Australia has identified 10 initiatives to kickstart the rollout of their three key strategic priorities:

  1. Remove barriers to donating excess superannuation
  2. Reform the DGR framework
  3. Introduce a Living Legacy Trust structure
  4. Champion stories of diverse philanthropy giving
  5. Develop a research agenda to extend the evidence base
  6. Support professional advisors to engage with clients about philanthropy
  7. Introduce a biannual report on high-net-worth giving
  8. Support ultra-high-net-worth philanthropists to engage peers in giving
  9. Cut red tape to enable more place-based philanthropy 
  10. Facilitate community and place-based philanthropy

The Blueprint also outlines six factors that influence giving that can be harnessed to meet the initiatives: 

1. Awareness, education and solicitation needs Potential donors need to know and believe the needs of the beneficiary group or cause. Awareness of charities and causes can be a key influencing factor in someone’s likelihood to give. Donors need to be asked to give. 

2. Incentives Lowering the cost or the complexity of donating is proven to increase donations. Fiscal and tax incentives can be used to stimulate philanthropy.

3. Peers Engaging donors to tell their positive philanthropy stories can help encourage others to do the same.

4. Culture of giving People are more inclined to give in countries where their nonprofit sector is seen as relevant and important. Engaging with people at key points in their life can also increase their likelihood of giving later in life.

5. Public trust Donors need to feel like their contributions are making a difference to the cause they’re supporting. We need to ensure there is a high level of public trust in nonprofits built through transparency and accountability as well as awareness and education.

6. Ease of giving Simplifying giving will make it easier for people to do. This can be through digital platforms. 

What’s next?

Achieving this ambitious goal will happen in stages across the decade. Philanthropy Australia has identified other potential initiatives that could be further developed in the second stage of the blueprint, including some interesting ones below:

  • Implementing a National Giving Campaign
  • Strengthening the fundraising capacity of charities 
  • Supporting workplaces to encourage soon-to-retire high-net-worth employees to consider philanthropy at retirement
  • Supporting programs that teach children about philanthropy at school
  • Fostering the next generation of philanthropists

The next steps will include bringing together a group of leaders and change agents across stakeholder sectors to own and drive components of the blueprint. Philanthropy Australia will also develop a plan and funding strategy to rollout the blueprint, highlighting the levels of investment needed to achieve its key initiatives. An integral component of this will be securing support for Philanthropy Australia to deliver on this roadmap. 

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